A few questions with painter Shara Hughes

The young artist considers her art and career after moving back to Atlanta from New York City


  • Shara Hughes
  • "These Sweets are too Sweet"

It's difficult to live and work as an artist anywhere. Atlanta especially has its own particular set of pluses and minuses: The city’s a good place to live, but many artists here struggle to maintain their careers. Painter Shara Hughes, who went to high school at Lovett and graduated six years ago from the Rhode Island School of Design, is not represented by any Atlanta gallery but shows her work in New York City and London. She returned to her hometown more than a year ago from New York City, preferring to live in Atlanta where it doesn’t take “all day to buy a quart of milk.”

Hughes’ loft is split down the middle, with living space on one side and her studio on the other. She mostly paints in brightly colored mixed media, including oil, day-glo acrylic paint and glitter on mid-sized stretched canvases, which hang throughout the space. The artist’s domestic interiors strongly recall English pop artist David Hockney’s cubist distortions on acid. In the world she creates on canvas, shabby chic lives side by side with glam.

Tell us about your paintings.
I like to talk about them like they are alive and like it’s more of a “we” situation. I feel as though they tell me where they need to go as much as I tell them. I say “we” because I think you have to be that connected with yourself to take it outside and put it on something flat for the world to see. That being said, I like to make interiors because I can really go anywhere I want to with it. If I feel like making a landscape, I put a window in there. If I feel like making op art or a nod to abstract expressionism, I hang it on a wall, or make it into a rug or a pattern somewhere. I have a big love and respect for art history so I try to incorporate it in my work as much as possible.

I’m interested boundaries between what something is, what we know something is within context, and what we feel something is. If you isolate some of the objects in my paintings outside of it’s environment, you can still see what they are — like a rendered chair or a plant. However, you can take other objects out of their environment and it turns abstract, or its just looks like a pile of squeezed paint or something unknown. Then there are parts of the work that remain unknown in the context of the painting, but they are still acceptable as just being this ambiguous shape, or sculpture, or field of energy or a shadow. Inside or outside the painting, the object remains ambiguous. I like these interchangeable ideas of reference, context, abstract, and recognizable objects as a reflection on real life. Most simply put, the dialogue between illusion and reality is fascinating.

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